Friday, October 21, 2016

Make Flu Flee!

Doses of this year’s flu vaccine are already being shipped to health care providers across the country, and with sporadic cases of the flu already appearing in some states, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is once again urging all of us to get a flu shot.

Unfortunately for the needle-phobic among us, the nasal mist form of the vaccine—which was introduced in 2013 and has been shown to offer little protection against getting sick—won’t be available this year. With the needle once again the only option, the CDC speculates that the number of vaccinations will plummet.

Some of the needle dodgers are afraid that the vaccine may actually give them the flu (it won’t), or they simply can’t face the prospect of getting jabbed. Other folks (procrastinators by nature) simply put it off until it’s too late to bother. It’s important to keep in mind, however, that the vaccine’s protection doesn’t kick in for about two weeks. So being proactive could make a big difference in the state of your health this winter.

In addition to getting vaccinated annually, conventional wisdom has it that to protect yourself and your family from the flu you need to wage a constant battle against germs that collect on all the frequently touched surfaces in your home. According to the most recent advice from top-tier doctors, that kind of cleaning frenzy isn’t necessary. Although inanimate objects may sometimes transmit flu viruses, their sharing power can’t hold a candle to human hands and breath. Still, if you want to disinfect some of the most likely germ catchers, here’s where to focus your attack:
  • Computer keyboards and mouses
  • Desks and tables
  • Doorknobs and light switches
  • Faucets
  • Handrails
  • TV and video-game remote control

Friday, October 14, 2016

Winter Is Coming…

Like it or not! But with just a little preparation now, you can head off a whole lot of springtime headaches. Here’s your season-ending to-do list:

Keep mowing. Throughout the fall, keep cutting your grass to its maximum recommended height until it stops growing or goes dormant. Then drop the blade a notch and mow one last time.

Give it a bedtime bath. Before the temperature falls to 50°F, give your lawn a final wash-down with my Fall Cleanup Tonic (below). How come? Because a lawn that goes to bed clean in the fall is more likely to wake up healthy in the spring.

Mix 1 cup each of antiseptic mouthwash, baby shampoo, and chamomile tea in a bucket, then add 2 cups of the mixture to a 20 gallon hose-end sprayer, filling the balance of the jar with warm water. Overspray your turf, and follow up with your regular fall lawn feeding.

Protect your borders. Before the first snow flies, liberally spread a 5-foot band of gypsum over the turf along roadsides, walkways, or any other surfaces that could be hit by salt from your town’s de-icing trucks. The mix 1 cup of dishwashing liquid and ½ cup each of ammonia and beer in a 20 gallon hose-end sprayer, and apply the solution over the gypsum to the point of runoff. Your soil and grass should sail through the winter in fine shape. 

Friday, October 07, 2016

Hooray—It’s Pumpkin Season!

Have you ever eaten pumpkin as a vegetable? I’m not talking about pumpkin pie; I’m talking about pumpkin, mashed and served with lean pot roast, or cubed and stirred into soup for a flavor and nutrient boost at lunch.

Pumpkin is as potent a veggie as you’ll find anywhere. Its deep orange color is a sure sign that it’s just crazy with carotenes, which fight both heart disease and cancer. So how do you pick the perfect pumpkin? Easy!
  • Check out farmer's markets and roadside stands for the freshest selection.
  • Find a small, flat, red-orange pumpkin. It'll be the sweetest. 
  • Pass up large pumpkins, which tend to be tough and stringy--and harder to work with. The last thing you need is a wrestling match!
  • Choose one that's unblemished, evenly shaped, and fresh-smelling. 

Okay, you’ve picked the perfect pumpkin. Now how do you get it ready to eat? Follow these simple steps, and you’ll have plenty of table-ready pumpkin for quick meals at a moment’s notice:

1.   Wash all the dirt off the pumpkin.

2.   Place the pumpkin on a sturdy cutting board.

3.   Using a large, sharp knife, cut the pumpkin in half.

4.   Scoop out the seeds and set them aside to toast later (yum!).

5.   Then use either of these methods to skin and cook:

Method 1: Cut your pumpkin into chunks and put the chunks on a well-greased baking sheet. Bake at 325°F for about an hour, or until the pulp is soft. Scrape the pulp from the shell, then toss it into your food processor to puree.

Method 2: Cut your pumpkin into chunks, peel the chunks, and place them in a saucepan. Add about ½ cup of water, cover, and simmer until tender, about 25 minutes.

Now you’re ready to enjoy your pumpkin!

Friday, September 30, 2016

4 Steps to a Happy Life!

If you’ve spent your life gazing at clouds and ignoring silver linings, it’s not likely that you’ll change that habit overnight. But there is one surefire way to get the ball rolling in a more positive direction. Instead of fretting about what you don’t have, be grateful for what you do have. Here’s a foolproof plan to help you cultivate an attitude of gratitude:

Count your blessings. Each evening, list things that happened that day for which you’re grateful. Think back over the past 24 hours. Did you see a beautiful sunset or a patch of colorful flowers? Have a pleasant chat with a neighbor? Open your mailbox to find no bills inside? You get the idea.

Say grace. Even if it’s only a short, silent acknowledgment when you’re grabbing lunch on the run, giving thanks for abundant, healthy food is a powerful reminder of a blessing that most of us take for granted.

Send thank-you notes. And not just to friends who’ve given you a gift or entertained you in their home. When people have helped or encouraged you in some way — even if they don’t know it — write and mail them letters of gratitude. Your expression of thanks will benefit you as much as it pleases the recipient.

Express your appreciation — often. Make a point of saying a sincere “Thank you!” to everyone who gives you a compliment, does you a favor, or performs any service for you, even if it’s part of their job. Not only will you feel good about yourself — it just might make that person’s day. 

Friday, September 23, 2016

Yuck! It’s a Funky Skunk!

Fall is in the air. Unfortunately, along with the scent of pumpkin spice lattes and wood-burning fire pits comes — pee-yoo! — the unmistakable stink of skunks. It seems like I’ve caught a whiff of the unpleasant aroma almost every day this month!

So what gives? Turns out that skunk babies (a.k.a. kits) that were born last spring are starting to venture out on their own for the first time. And the inexperienced adolescents are a little jumpy around dogs, cars, people, and other perceived dangers.

When they’re confronted by a human, or any other critter for that matter, skunks would much rather flee before they launch a fragrant attack. When a skunk feels cornered or threatened, he’ll stiffen up his front legs, stomp them, and shuffle backward a little. He may also hiss and growl. When you’ve been issued that warning, just back off quickly and quietly, and the skunk may retreat, too. Otherwise, the little stinker will throw his body over his head and — still facing you — let ’er rip!

If your dog tangles with the wrong end of a skunk, don’t panic. Just saturate Fido with full-strength mouthwash, carefully avoiding his eyes and ears. Then wash him with a good dog shampoo, and rinse thoroughly. Fresh out of mouthwash? Don’t worry—this alternative formula is just as effective. Mix 1 quart of 3-percent hydrogen peroxide, ¼ cup of baking soda, and 1 teaspoon of liquid hand soap in a bucket. Then corral your pal and soak him thoroughly with the solution. Rinse well and towel him dry. Note: These two remedies work just as well on humans as they do on pets. As for your clothes, take them to the local laundromat and toss them in the washer with an alkaline detergent. 

Friday, September 16, 2016

Sniff Away Sniffles Solution

What’s more annoying than a case of constant sniffles brought on by ragweed allergies? Not a whole lot that I can think of!

So when allergy season hands you a runny nose that has you climbing the walls, try this ultra-simple herbal elixir. It’ll have you breathing easier in no time.

1 cup of boiling water

Put 1 tablespoon each of fresh herbs into the water, place a towel over your head to make a tent, and breathe in the fumes for five minutes. (Be careful not to scald your face — lower it slowly over the steam.)

Not into sniffing herbs? Try Grandma Putt’s favorite allergy treatment instead. Soak a washcloth in the hottest water you can stand, wring it out, and lay it across your nose and sinuses. If you keep the cloth as hot as you can, it seems to work on the same principle as hot soup or spicy food: It loosens and liquefies mucus. 

Friday, September 09, 2016

Pack Yourself a Vinegar Sandwich!

Back in the days when I toted my lunch to school, Grandma Putt relied on vinegar to keep my lunch box and thermos bottle odor-free — and this trick works just as well today. Here’s what you need to do:

Lunch box. Saturate either a clean sponge or a slice of bread in white vinegar, tuck it into the box, snap the lid shut, and leave it overnight. Come morning, rinse the box out and dry it thoroughly.

Thermos bottle. Pour ¼ cup of vinegar into the bottle, and fill ’er up the rest of the way with hot tap water. Then whisk the inside with a bottle brush, and rinse with clear water.

Bingo — in both cases you’ll have no telltale reminders of yesterday’s (or last week’s) lunch!